The Tower of Florence

I’m considering including this new bit of dialogue in the third draft publication text (chapter 11). It would be the earliest instance of Socratic dialogue in the book. I am enormously fond of Socratic dialogue, because it is funny and obvious, and yet the speakers wind up getting somewhere with it, and so does the listener. This dialogue concerns Claire’s first glimpse of ai Ktésiphôn, the mysterious tower of Florence, which has a larger role in Volume II. Here, she is walking along with a steward, who explains:

– That is ai Ktésiphôn.

– What was that? Did you mean a ktésiphôn, or the ktésiphôn, or simply Ktésiphôn?

– I meant none of these, but rather ai Ktésiphôn.

– Come now, please explain this to me. For if it were a ktésiphôn, then it should be one instance of many towers like it, of some type you Florentines call “ktésiphôn.” And if it were the ktésiphôn, then it would be an instance of a category too, but a special or only instance, such as when we call a philosopher “the philosopher,” indicating that he stands so far above his field as to stand alone. And further, if you meant simply Ktésiphôn, then this would be the name of the thing itself, and it would be in no category, just as a human person’s name indicates he is not an instance but a singularity.

– Yes, I see what you mean, although I never bothered to think it through so clearly before. Still, I meant what I said – that particular tower is ai Ktésiphôn.

– Well, what is this ai?

– You do not have it in Zanzibar? This is very strange. Ai is between the and a – it tells us this instance is one of two. There are two like it.

– There is another Ktésiphôn somewhere?

– Yes.

– In Florence?

– Surely not, or someone would have noticed it by now.

– Well perhaps the other one stands in the land the name comes from.

– O Claire, now I am confused.

– I mean only this: Ktésiphôn does not sound like a word in the tongue of Florence. It sounds like a strange foreign word, more Genovan, wouldn’t you say?

– Perhaps! Of this too, I have never thought, nor of the tower, really. No one does.

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